“Guest of Panoramic View in this issue is İlkim Yıldırım Gökalp, General Manager of Ametal, a family corporation in Turkish Lift Industry which has reached a corporate structure in fact.” Yasemin Bulut

As a well-disciplined, decisive and successful business woman, Mrs. İlkim you are a role model especially for the women who will take the chair in second generation. Could you talk about your career? How did you go out to work?  

I graduated from Private Kalamış High School and Kocaeli University, Faculty of Economics. Since it is a family-run business, I participated in the exhibitions at home and abroad in which Ametal participated by taking charge and tried to introduce our firm so throughout my university period. Following my graduation in 2001 I studied in USA during three months for my capabilities of foreign language of which I laid a foundation in private school and for which I couldn’t get the opportunity to make practice other than books and experienced the life therein during that period. And then I decided to get a start in business in Ametal. In the first months of my active business life I participated in Export Specialist Programme given by Boğaziçi University. Even though I had studied in economics, I liked to work in the section of sales, social part of the business. In my first days in Ametal, I became involved in the business by observing the production, back of house and taking part in the processes. We manufactured predominantly operating panel as well as control board and cage at that period. After being involved in production steps, I developed a passion for what is going on in the sales part of the business. I kicked off by getting information on the clients abroad. I met foreign clients by accompanying Mr. Ismail during foreign visits.           


Despite the fact that I’m a member of family, I could make business at the level of a translator in my early career when I have limited knowledge on the technical subjects of business and it caused me to get experience and helped me learning the business.


I learned the business by participating in industry-specific exhibitions, making interviews with customers and being in charge in the places required by business i.e. back of house. Even though it takes time for me to complete my information under specific titles like what is lift as a whole? What does Ametal do? How is it positioned in the sector? Other industry-specific information, needs of sector, clients and suppliers, it was a great process of pleasure. The path of my journey which started with foreign sales during 12 years when I was employed in sales department widened with domestic customers. I worked in a structure where I made one-to-one interviews with clients in operations and provided direct service to them. In 2006 I proceeded to sales management department. Upon the decision of our sales manager to whom I was lending assistance to live in abroad, I took over his duty as sales manager.  After strengthening our staff with the friends having experience in sales, I started to make domestic customer visits. First I visited the firms located in Konya. As long as sales team gets stronger, I concentrated on more managerial works rather than operational works of sales management by distributing the related works. I developed an interest in procurement, human resources and R&D as well as sales department that I was dealing with. I started to perform more managerial works by conveying my information and experience that I have obtained for years to the new members of staff.  I became deputy general manager in 2014. Last year Mr. Ismail said “It is time for a change. You are well-experienced, popular and reliable person in sector. I want to remain as CEO. I believe and desire that you will perform the duty of General Manager as it should be” and then I became general manager.  Following 16-year employment in Ametal I continue to do my duty in capacity of general manager and try to advance Ametal.            


Could we call the process experienced in the 16-year journey of İlkim Yıldırım in business life as institutionalization process of Ametal also? What kind of Professional supports does Ametal take in this process?

Yes of course. I believe that founders should have previously a corporate vision in order for the firms to continue their institutionalization process healthily. However the firm should have structure to bear the characteristics of a corporate identity and sector should be ready for institutionalization. No matter how much you believe in corporate culture as founders and managers, it may take time to find right human resources and to perform the right work with right teams. Transactions for ISO certification were completed in 2001 when I start to work in Ametal. Because Mr. Ismail, founder of our firm established in 1988 has a corporate vision, a corporate culture has existed since its inception.     


Since our ideas are similar with each other as father and daughter, we have parallel viewpoints, Mr. Ismail supports the rising generation and stays behind and let professionals do their jobs in many fields, we have developed our corporate identity for years. We have received assistances within this process. We have worked with expert consultants in their fields like R&D, Sales and Law as well as financial affairs and are getting together and make assessments in certain periods. Why are consultants so important? After a certain point, we trail into a view point focusing on the sector. Even though reports and figures appear in front of you, operational blindness may occur. Since consultants are familiar with various sectors, they may give different opinions with a wider view point. Considering such assessments we find best solution to our need.       

To the extent I consider it from an external perspective and starting from what you state up to now Ametal displays a family-business profile which has become a brand in the sector and achieved to institutionalize in real terms. What is your comment about it?

To make our works sustainable and developable with professionalism in a corporate structure is one of the subjects to which we have paid considerable attention. We place a great emphasis on every employee constituting our human resources from the security agent welcoming our guests at the door to senior management. We know that what will survive continuously is the corporation itself and what makes the corporation sustainable are the individuals founding and managing the system. Thus even if individuals in corporation are replaced, your processes go on without any failure if you have a system established with right infrastructure. We try to form a structure with this thought.    


You said “Ametal has a visionary structure since it was founded”. I know that there was an effort of a woman here in the beginning. Could you talk about the effects of your mother, Behiye Yıldırım on the visionary structure of Ametal?

My mother is a person who stands by my father as his greatest follower, when the ideas on Ametal were brought forward freshly. Ms. Behiye preferred to be retired after her 15-year journey in banking industry in order to allocate more time to their children and then joined us as an esteemed member of the organization of Ametal. After her career and experience in banking industry she performed studies on finance and budget and made serious contributions to the development of social part of Ametal with her strong human relations. She has been the vice chairman of the management board (executive director) for last one year.     


How do you take your corporate decisions as second-generation female manager after taking over the management from your father?

 In addition to our periodical assessments at the level of management, we have meetings with professional managerial staffs in accordance with the subject. I chair these meetings. We take decisions in the meetings which bring departments together and are held on monthly or weekly basis in accordance with its content and dynamism and of which we set the agenda in advance and then monitor the processes following them with our teams. Results of the meeting are further reported to Mr. Ismail and me. We have brief talks with managers and supervisors for daily cases. We are a firm which may contribute to work productivity and take quick decisions and transform such decisions into action.         


How about the advantages provided by your new factory to your firm?

 We have diversified our journey of production beginning with operation panel and control board with the production of different products within our body for last ten years. Our load meters production initiated in 2005 is followed by the organization of the production and supply organization of packaged lift systems since 2007. We couldn’t actualize the solutions and suggestions that we have developed for packaged lift system due to the limited physical conditions of our building in Dudullu. We can give a place for the said products in our new factory occupying 7 thousand squares meters.  


As for lift systems we may produce not only a standard lift system but also specific systems for lift shaft and tailor-made systems. Using the opportunities provided by our current factory and storage area, we have developed our system and ensured standardization in our organization from Project designing to shipping.    


Ametal has participated frequently in foreign exhibitions. What about your strategy for foreign exhibitions?

 Since mid 90s, we have participated in Interlift, International Lift Fair, organized in Augsburg, Germany. Even though we don’t participate in the exhibitions held in different countries as stand holder, we try to participate in them as a visitor in order to get information on the market. Visitors in foreign exhibitions pay attention to the brands which participate steadily in the exhibitions. We have participated in same stand at same hall. It can be remembered easily so. Since it has popularity around the world, Interlift allows establishing new contacts and meeting with our current customers abroad. We get the opportunity to meet many customers from different countries who have never been in Turkey. We get efficiency from Interlift since it concentrates on European market.         


Turkish Lift Industry has grown in parallel with the development of construction sector in last ten years. This performance is foreseen to go on in next ten years. What do you see in the big Picture for sector? Next ten years is said, does it take next twenty years?

Construction sector in Turkey has grown exaggeratedly in recent years. This situation feeds the lift market also. Existence of the business opportunities to be sufficient for many firms is a reality. But when next ten years and development are called, technology comes to my mind. I think that lift sector should develop its view point towards technology and make investment in it in order to meet the needs. 


What about the reflections of fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0) on our sector?

 While we deal with different subjects in Turkey, world walked away in terms of technology. Needs are changing, production concept is changing. Especially investments made by the leading global firms in R&D appear as smart lifts with both aesthetic designs and electronic solutions. It will have a number of reflections on our sector. We will have to change also accordingly. It is necessary for the firms to harden themselves in terms infrastructure in order to stand in forthcoming years.   


So, how do we harden ourselves for this process?

As lift manufacturers we have to offer solution suggestions varying in accordance with the product offered. Thus products and productions created and solutions offered should absolutely include technical infrastructure, system and engineering. It is necessary to develop a solution by standardizing your business and to appear before the customers with the packages compatible with today’s conditions. What is need? How can I provide it to my firm and customers advantageously? I think that both questions are critical. Every firm should make this inquiry for its own business content.   


The perception “firms with female managers grow in more visionary way and proceed on their ways with less problems spreads gradually in the sector. What would you like say about it?

Contributions of women to their businesses with their emotional intelligence and their common sense and their assessment and decision abilities are beyond argument as well as the technique, experience and mathematics of the business. I believe that it is necessary to treat women in equalitarian and fair way in every part of business life. I think that enterprises employing women consciously in lower and upper staffs in any way stay one step ahead from others in terms of vision. Productivity is higher in the firms where women are employed and this situation draws a considerable attention in our sector. On the other hand it is a well-known fact that there is not sufficient number of female employees in our sector.


In your opinion as a female manager is the number of the women employed in sector sufficient? How can it be increased? Does Ametal have any study about it?

Women compromise 21% of the employees in Ametal. I think that this rate is higher average rate of the sector. Is it sufficient? Of course not! The fact that female employees are employed generally in managerial departments cause the said figures to remain so. Women should exist in production processes. When our European clients visit our factory, they ask first “Why don’t you have any female employee in your production site?” Considering what a female employee can do in production, what they can do appear so. For example they may be employed in preparation of electronic components, soldering works, stock tracking and control departments and many different points. Increase in the employment of female employees in the managerial staffs of Ametal is in the agenda of HR Department.    


Ms. İlkim is a mother with responsibilities as well as her identity of successful business women. She will take her baby on her lap soon and take care of her baby for a short period. I would like to thank her so much for giving an opportunity to have such pleasant interview with her and answering my questions in an unyielding manner with patience. However I appreciate Dear Ismail Yıldırım for turning over the management of a corporate enterprise with such brand value in Turkish Lift Sector to a woman.


Sincere regards

Yasemin Bulut


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